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Pulwama suicide attack: India withdraws Pak MFN status

Top Story

February 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Following the Pulwama terror attack, India on Friday withdrew the 'most-favoured nation' (MFN) status to Pakistan, a move which would enable India to increase customs duty on goods coming from Pakistan.

India has also called its High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria to Delhi for consultations in the wake of the attack. In a media briefing after the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the MFN status to Pakistan stands revoked.

India granted the MFN status to Pakistan way back in 1996, but Pakistan has not yet reciprocated. The MFN status was accorded under WTO's General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Both Pakistan and India are signatories to this and are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Removal of this status means India can now enhance customs duties to any level on goods coming from Pakistan. Total Pakistan-India trade has increased marginally to $2.41 billion in 2017-18 as against $2.27 billion in 2016-17. India imported goods worth $488.5 million in 2017-18 and exported goods worth $1.92 billion in that fiscal. India mainly exports cotton, dyes, chemicals, vegetables and iron and steel while it imports fruits, cement, leather, chemicals and spices.

The CCS meet was chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the security scenario in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack. At least 38 Indian soldiers were killed and five injured on Thursday in one of the deadliest terror attacks in IHK when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.

India has also called its High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria to Delhi for consultations in the wake of the Pulwama attack. In a hard-hitting speech, Modi said the "blood of the people is boiling" and forces behind the act of terrorism will be definitely be punished.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in a statement urged upon the international community to support the proposal to declare JeM chief Masood Azhar a ‘designated terrorist’ by the UN under its provisions.

Meanwhile, Pakistan summoned the acting Indian high commissioner to the Foreign Office to lodge a protest over baseless accusations in which the Modi government is blaming Pakistan for the suicide attack in the IHK.

On Thursday night, the Foreign Office in a statement condemned the attack and said, “We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations.

In Munich, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the German media that India should refrain from hurling baseless accusations against Pakistan. Responding to the Indian allegations, Qureshi said Pakistan has always advocated peace with neighbouring countries and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s peace overture to India was on record.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had earlier summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood in New Delhi in the aftermath of the suicide bombing in the IHK. Mahmood was issued a demarche in connection with the terrorist attack in Pulwama.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration called on Pakistan to “end its support” of terrorist groups operating from its territory. In a statement out after on Indian security forces in Pulwama, the White House press secretary said "the US condemns in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist attack by a Pakistan-based terrorist group that killed over 40 Indian paramilitary forces and wounded at least 44 others."

"The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region," the White House said in the statement, adding that the attack only strengthens "our resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation and coordination between the United States and India." The statement also expressed condolences to the victims' families, the Indian government, and the Indian people for the loss of life in the brutal attack.

The State Department in a separate statement said the UN-designated, Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Muhammad has claimed responsibility for this heinous act, and called on all countries to uphold their responsibilities pursuant to UN Security Council resolutions to deny safe haven and support for terrorists.

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir adds: Pakistan has no plan to recall or summoning its high commissioner in India in the wake of baseless Indian allegation mongering.

The Indian high commissioner dashed to New Delhi and reports emanating from the Indian capital suggests that Ajay Basaria joined the brainstorming process at South Block where Indian external affairs ministry, military headquarters and RAW high ups were already present.

It is understood that India which is already extremely upset about Pakistan’s achievements in foreign affairs has evolved strategy to obstruct Pakistan’s journey forward. Highly-placed diplomatic sources told The News that undertaking ‘misadventure’ against Pakistan was part of the discussion. Keeping India’s frustration in view, Pakistan has put in place all necessary precautions to thwart any evil design from across the border.

The Foreign Office has initiated diplomatic offence at the face of New Delhi’s aggressive posturing and maligning Pakistan on account of a domesticated act which Pakistan has nothing to do. Here in Islamabad, the Foreign Office was on its toes till after midnight as Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua summoned the Indian high commissioner and then the US charge d'affaires separately to lodge Pakistan’s stringent protest on the position their respective countries have taken.

Ajay Basaria told the foreign secretary that he was on the airport and about to board a plane for New Delhi as he has been summoned by his government. The Foreign Office then summoned new deputy high commissioner Alluwalia to register protest, the sources said.

Pakistan has already conveyed its point of view regarding the attack to envoys of P-5 countries (permanent members of the (UNSC). Islamabad has asked its missions across the world to reach their host governments to place before them Pakistan’s position. It is expected that Pakistan will brief visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman about Indian evil intentions when he will be reaching here and starting his visit tomorrow (Sunday), the sources said.

Tehmina Janjua is coordinating with relevant authorities keep an eye on the situation. The three forces are fully prepared and alert to thwart any misadventure from across the border, the sources said.

Pakistan’s permanent representative for the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi has established contact with the secretariat of the UN Secretary General and briefed it about the entire situation. Sources said that Dr Lodhi has also established contacts with the representatives of various important influential countries to brief them about the real situation in the region, the sources added. It is likely the developments and overall situation will also come under discussion in the Parliament as the National Assembly session is commencing on Monday (February 18).

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